How to Start and Grow Your Coaching Business

By coaching, we mean any form of teaching and support you provide your clients to help them achieve a desirable outcome. Coaching is a great way to monetize your expertise and it’s often has a “high-ticket value” associated with it. Some people are put-off about launching a coaching business as they believe it’s hard to scale and it’s selling time. However, done correctly, coaching is a great way to build your platform to promote future products and services.

How to build a strong foundation for your coaching business

  1. Define what you’re offering. “I help people get fit” or “I help people market their business” are too vague. You need to be clear about what you’re specifically coaching others in. If you’re not sure how to pin down your offer, we have a process that will help you.
  2. Define who you’re helping. Next, you need to be very specific about who you help. Marketing experts suggest you create a customer avatar – an imaginary perfect customer who will use your service. Once you have your avatar defined, many business decisions will be based on this, e.g. What would my customer avatar want? What would help them the most? What is my avatar struggling with?
  3. Find an audience that is willing and able to pay you. You need to find a market who wants what you can offer and who can afford your prices. A great way to find if such a market exists is to use Facebook ads to promote a “test offer” related to your services to see if there is any demand, e.g. a paid one-hour coaching session for them to get help on what they’re struggling with.  At the end of your research, you need to have answers to the following questions:
    – Is my audience the kind I’d care about?
    – Can the audience I’d care about afford my rates? If not, consider looking elsewhere;
    – Can I deliver to this audience and provide them with solutions they’re seeking?
         To make the answer to this question less broad, consider interviewing your prospective audience’s members about their goals that relate to the specific areas of their lives. For example, career and financial goals of some audience members might take priority over their travel and health & physical goals, whereas other members might value learning and spiritual goals over relationship and career ones. Once you have a clear idea what your prospective audience’s priorities are, you can answer the last question:
    – Do I still care about this audience after having all the information? If you’re hesitant to answer “yes”, consider another target market.
  4. Forget about passion. We know that’s not a popular opinion. There’s a lot of touchy-feely advice about following your passion. We’re not killjoys but there’s a problem with passion:
    You might not have a passion, or if you do, it’s not monetizable. You might love sitting in cafés, watching the world go by; or waking up in the morning without a plan and just driving somewhere new. That’s hard to monetize.
    Passions change over time. We can all think of past passions then, one day, we went to bed loving it and woke up never to do it again. It’s odd, it’s sad in some ways but that’s life. Don’t get so hung up building a business on a passion that may suddenly change;
    Somewhere down the line, it’s about running a business, not exercising your passion. You have a passion for fishing, say. Well, teaching people about fishing is not the same as fishing! You love fishing; you may hate teaching others how to fish.
         What’s the alternative? First, just choose something you find interesting. Interesting is awesome. No one is suggesting you start a business you hate (definitely don’t do that) but don’t get hung up on trying to find the burning passion either. Having an interest in something – just liking, not loving it is more than enough. Second, try to love the coaching process rather than the topic. If you love both, great, but it’s not necessary. We know millionaires who made their money selling candy. Candy is not their passion; running a successful candy business, growing a brand, reaching their goals etc. is the motivation for them. So, as a coach, can you get satisfaction from helping people and not necessarily in what you’re helping them with?
    Yes, being passionate about something is a definite bonus but it’s not the be-all-end-all.
  5. Create a USP that directly correlates with your audience. Audience research is the key when you’re creating your USP (unique selling proposition). Many coaches claim to help “everyone who needs A, B and C”, not really considering that those people come from different backgrounds, different levels of experience, slightly different goals and therefore need a personalised approach. You can’t help everyone, and you can lose clients if you try. In all walks of life – law, medicine, engineering – specialists get paid more than generalists.
         Your USP, at least to start with, should be based on the goals, needs and expectations of a targeted audience that you’ve spent a lot of time getting to know. That’s not to say, of course, that your audience won’t grow over time – when that happens, you can tweak your USP to accommodate them, too.
  6. Build trust and credibility. Social media is a great way to stay visible as a coach and to gain online credibility amongst potential audience members. If you don’t have any clients yet, concentrate on creating great content to demonstrate your expertise in your subject. Some ways you can do this:
    – Host a live webinar solving a problem your target audience is struggling with;
    – Offer a one-hour coaching session where the caller can pick your brain;
    Write a book.
    Get customer testimonials
    – Start building social proof
  7. Charge high prices. This is so important if you want to build a successful, sustainable business – charge high prices. Selling yourself short can be tempting, but it is not the mark of a good business person. If your audience can’t or won’t pay your prices, you need to find a different audience or adjust your service accordingly.
  8. Be confident. Confidence is key, not just for yourself but also for your clients. You have to realise that your clients have put their trust in you. They’re looking to you to produce results, to help them do what they feel they cannot do on their own. Your clients may come to you with low levels of confidence or self-belief and you need to have enough confidence for everyone. Your clients need to feel they’re in good hands, that there’s nothing to worry about and success is inevitable. That’s what great coaching is – giving people the knowledge, tools and belief they will succeed.
  9. Develop your coaching personality. We knew a swimming coach who trained aspiring competitive swimmers. His demeanour was dour; he always seemed bored; he got annoyed; he always gave the impression that you were an unwelcome distraction. Even though he knew his stuff, he could not keep his clients due to his poor attitude.
         If you want to coach, it helps if you like people. You need to be positive, sociable, warm. You have to be enthusiastic and encouraging. Being coached by you needs to be fun.
  10. Think bigger. If you want to grow your business, start organising workshops. Keep the groups small so that you can deliver a high-quality, attentive service. Offer your services to large companies to train their workforce.
         We knew of a coach who used the following method to great effect. He would email a Fortune 500 company and offer to train a limited number of its workforce for a few hours, in his area of expertise, free of charge. In return, the company would agree to provide a testimonial. (Whilst we generally do not recommend working free, if the payoff is good, it’s a helpful way to build credibility if you’re just starting out).
         After he provided the training, he contact similar Fortune 500 companies, tell them he had just provided training to the first company and offered a similar course on a commercial basis. He only had to do this about five times before he had enough commercial testimonials from respected companies to use in his marketing material.
  11. Promote other coaching products. As your credibility grows, consider other coaching products and services. Multi-day workshops, bespoke training, training “bootcamps” and weekends; live events and joint ventures. Use your imagination – the depth and breadth of products you can create is huge.

Takeaway points

  1. Be clear about who you help, how you help them and the results you’re promising.
  2. Charge high prices.
  3. Test if there’s demand for your coaching services with a simple Facebook ad offering a one-hour coaching session.

Action steps:

  1. Define your offer and your audience.
  2. Commission and professional logo design on Upwork and if you have not yet done so, setup your personal website using WordPress.
  3. Start building social proof by promoting a one-hour coaching offer using Facebook ads. Consider offering a free training session to a Fortune 500 company as described in #10 above. Make the approach.

Photo credit: nick farnhill via Flickr.com / CC BY-SA 2.0

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